Monday, April 21, 2003, Chandigarh, India


L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


Vigilance tightens noose on schools
Evidence to expose ‘scam’ involving admn officers
Naveen S. Garewal
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 20
Sleuths of the Punjab Vigilance Bureau have been in the city, conducting investigations over the past 48 hours into ‘admission scam’ involving top city schools. Armed with vital information, the vigilance officials say that they are now fully prepared to deal with the authorities of four leading city schools, who have been issued notices to appear before the investigating officer of the Vigilance Bureau at Chandigarh on Monday.

The Tribune investigation has revealed that the bureau has stumbled upon vital information that is adequate to expose the ‘admission scam’ involving senior officer of the local administration and several middlemen who reportedly got small children admitted to kindergarten in these schools. “ The past 10-year record that the school managements have been asked to present before the investigating officers will reveal a lot, but the evidence already in possession of the bureau is enough to take appropriate action under the Anti-Corruption Act ,” an official revealed.

The schools on the other hand, which earlier questioned the jurisdiction of the bureau over investigating matters pertaining to private institutions, have agreed to cooperate. The schools have been told that the allegations made in a complaint to the bureau has a very large scope as it also involves ‘public servants’. As there are allegations that senior government functionaries too are involved, the bureau is citing Section 9 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, that relates to exercise of personal influence by a public servant.

This section states: “Whoever accepts or obtains, or agrees to accept, or attempts to obtain, from any person, for himself or for any other person, any gratification whatever as a motive or reward for including, by the exercise of personal influence, any public servant, whether named or otherwise, to do or to forbear to do any official act, or in the exercise of the official functions of such public servant to show favour or disfavour to any person, or to render or attempt to render any service or disservice to any person with the Central Government or any state government or Parliament or the Legislature of any state or with any local authority, corporation or government company referred to in clause (c) of Section 2, or with any public servant, whether named or otherwise, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall be not less than six months but which may extend to five years and shall also be liable to fine.”

The bureau is trying to establish not only the siphoning off of huge amounts of money collected as ‘donations’ by officials concerned of the schools, but also at the same time nail officials in the district administration who have allegedly indulged in what is described as "Criminal, misconduct by a public servant" in the Section 13 of the Act. Sub-section (d) of the Section says a criminal misconduct includes “ if he (the official) by corrupt or illegal means, obtains for himself or for any other person any valuable thing or pecuniary advantage”. Securing admission for favoured children falls under the preview of this portion of the Act.

Legal experts have told school administration that under the Act, a DSP or a police officer of equivalent rank can “investigate any offence punishable under this Act without the order of a Metropolitan Magistrate or a Magistrate (First Class), as the case may be, or make any arrest therefore without a warrant”. The bureau is working on the case on the basis of a complaint filed by a local resident. A public interest litigation (PIL) on the issue is already pending before the Punjab and Haryana High Court. 



Reapers being used despite ban
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 20
Despite the orders of the District Magistrate, Mr Anurag Agarwal, banning the use of straw reapers in the district, the machine is being openly used by farmers thus posing a threat of fire to the standing wheat crop.

Straw reaper has gained notoriety for causing fire in fields. Keeping in view the apprehensions of fire, the District Magistrate (DM) had banned the use of straw reapers till April 25. The orders were passed on April 17. The DM had stated that the farmers would be free to use the machine after April 25 since most of the wheat crop would have been harvested by then. He had urged the farmers to strictly abide by the orders.

Throwing the orders to the winds, the farmers are resorting to preparing straw with the help of reapers in almost all villages of the district. Soon after the crop is harvested with combine harvesters, farmers start preparing straw without bothering for the ban orders.

A Ludhiana Tribune team visited various villages today and saw that the machine was being used in at least 12 villages of the district, including Mattewara, Miani, Salempura, Chaunta, Garcha and other villages. The farmers expressed ignorance about the orders.

Farmers said they did not know that such operations had been banned till April 25. They said even the revenue officials of their areas had not told them about the orders.

Mr Rajinder Pal Singh, a farmer who was preparing straw in his fields with the help of a reaper, expressed surprise over the issue. “We know that we are not supposed to burn straw as it is not good for environment and soil, but nobody has told us anything about the ban on the use of reapers. Had I known it, I would have waited for five more days,” he said.

A part of straw reaper causes sparks that may set the standing crop in the surrounding fields ablaze causing financial loss to farmers. Since the entire crop is dry during this season, it becomes highly combustible and can catch fire with a spark only. Sometimes hundreds of acres of crop are reduced to ashes within a few minutes only. So the farmers are generally advised by experts to postpone straw-making operations till the harvesting is complete in their vicinity.

The farmers are aware of the fact that the machine can cause fire, but once their crop is harvested they throw all cautions to the winds. ‘‘A ball bearing in the machine often gets faulty and starts generating sparks that can lead to fire incidents. But what can we do? We have to prepare the fields for the next crop also. So we have to finish with this crop as soon as possible,” a farmer said.



Farmers’ bodies threaten to resume stir
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, April 20
Several farmers’ organisations have charged the state government with betraying farmers and doing a volte face on the commitment made on the pending demands of the farmers.

A joint meeting of the Kirti Kisan Union, All-India Kisan Mazdoor Sabha, Jamhoori Kisan Sabha and Khetibari Kisan Vikas Front held here yesterday flayed the government for its failure to make specific announcement giving effect to the promise made by the Finance Minister, Mr Lal Singh, at the time of state-level dharna by farmers’ in Chandigarh.

Giving details of the deliberations, Mr Hardev Singh Sandhu, vice-president of the Kisan Mazdoor Sabha, said the minister had assured them that there would be no further hike in charges for electrical motors used for agricultural purpose, besides acceptance of payment of pending bills without surcharge till April 30, withdrawal of enhancement in load extension, scrapping of time limit for this purpose and arrangements through Tubewell Corporation to provide water and power in areas where water table had declined. Further, the government was to convene a meeting with representative bodies of farmers over other pending issues in first week of April.

The meeting noted with regret that the government had completely failed to honour its commitments. “No announcement has been made by the government on any of these matters and the planned meeting with the Chief Minister remains elusive.” The participating organisations served an ultimatum to resume the suspended agitation if the government continued its indifferent and apathetic attitude towards the farmers and their pending demands.



Sex-determination test at doorstep
Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 20
Where there is a will, there is a way. This seems to be true about those radiologists who were forced to abandon the practice of conducting prenatal sex-determination tests after the government crackdown. Such radiologists have found their own ways and means to continue with the tests, of course with little more efforts and care.

With the mounted vigil against sex-determination tests, a lot of innovative methods are being tried by doctors and people to escape the provisions of the Act. One of the methods being tried by a doctor is that he carries his ultrasound machine to far-flung areas and performs test at home during night.

A government doctor, who has been doing private practice on Pakhowal Road in the name of his wife, performs such tests rampantly. He makes the person to promise that abortion (in case the foetus is female) and delivery (in case the foetus is male) is performed in his clinic only.

Another trend being noticed is that people are going to neighbouring states also to get the test done as the rules have not been enforced there strictly so far. A registered medical practitioner disclosed that the rate for such tests in Hardwar was Rs 300 only. While rates in Ludhiana range between Rs 3,000 and Rs 10,000. The two doctors of the city caught recently by sending a decoy patient charged Rs 5,000-2,000. After a massive crackdown by the authorities concerned, radiologists either avoid performing such tests or charge exorbitantly.

The biggest loosers after the crackdown are the quacks who used to make a good amount of money by getting referral incentive (called commission in common parlance). It is also learnt that some persons are being taken to peripheral satellite towns around the city to get the sex of unborn foetus determined at night.

The doctors, who are running scanning centres, said there was tremendous pressure from people for getting the tests performed. He said sometimes the women having already two or three daughters broke down, while narrating the ill-treatment meted out to them for not bearing the male child. But, the doctor said now people had started feeling convinced that the sex determination tests were against the basic human values.



Hosiery manufacturers turn to God
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 20
Despite having suspended their work for the past 21 days, there seems to be no encouraging response to the hosiery manufacturers from any quarter. So ultimately they have turned to God. They organised prayer meetings throughout the state propitiating God to ‘give wisdom to the government’ to withdraw the Central excise duty to be levied on hosiery and textile products.

According to Mr Sunil Mehra, general secretary of the Punjab Beopar Mandal and member of the joint action committee spearheading the campaign against the Central excise duty, the manufacturers will try to use every possible method to prevail upon the government to withdraw the Central excise duty on the hosiery and textile products.

He said special prayers were held in various temples, gurdwaras, mosques and churches in different parts of the state by hosiery manufacturers and traders. He claimed that over 10,000 hosiery manufacturing units were lying closed resulting in about five lakh workers getting unemployed. He said in case the government did not take an immediate decision, it would be difficult to control the massive work force that was already getting impatient.

He said when workers had nothing to do and nothing to eat they could resort to any damn thing and the government would be responsible for that. He said the workers had started feeling restless and a storm was brewing up.

Mr Vinod Thapar, another representative of the striking hosiery manufacturers, said the chain fast was drawing good response and a number of people were voluntarily joining it. He sought the cooperation of general public saying that in Ludhiana almost every family was related to hosiery manufacturing in one way or the other.

He said, “Nobody would like to shut his premises and suspend work for so many days in the peak season. But we have no way out except to prevail upon the government by way of agitation.” He declared that the hosiery manufacturers would continue to suspend their work till the government withdrew its decision to levy the Central excise duty on hosiery and textile products.

Meanwhile, a local Congress MLA, Mr Surinder Dawer, today came out in support of the striking hosiery manufacturers demanding that the levying of the Central excise on hosiery products be abolished. He has written a letter to the Congress president, Ms Sonia Gandhi, urging her to raise the issue in Parliament as the problem concerned thousands of hosiery manufacturers across the country.



’84 riot victims threaten self-immolation
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 20
A sense of indignation and anger prevails among 1984 riot victims, staying at the local Danga Peerat Colony, over a decision of the Punjab Urban Development Authority (PUDA) to allot the houses, in which they are living at present, to the general public. The riot victims have threatened that if they are forced to vacate these houses, they will set themselves ablaze.

The riot victims had been living in these houses, belonging to PUDA, for the past more than 18 years and PUDA had recently advertised that the houses, which were reserved for the victims, would be allotted to the general public.

More than 18 years after they were forced to leave their homes in different parts of the country, hundreds of families living in this colony are fearing that they will be forced to leave these houses also.

The victims said that while their wounds would never heal, the state government, instead of coming to their aid, had only added insult to injury by not fulfilling a number of promises made by the then state government and the successive ones as well. The previous SAD-BJP government had also only given “mere assurances” and not implemented them.

Living in the colony in Urban Estate, Dugri, here, the affected families were eagerly awaiting the promised allotment of 929 houses, 100 shops, 500 ration depots besides compensation and proper employment opportunities, when the decision of PUDA dashed all their hopes.

‘‘We will not allow PUDA to do this to us. If the authorities do not withdraw the announcement, we will immolate ourselves outside the Chief Minister’s residence,’’ according to Mr Surjit Singh Saluja, secretary of the Danga Peerat Welfare Society.

An old couple, Kesar Singh and Ravel Kaur, and their neighbour Rajinder Kaur said they had already run from their homes twice. Once at the time of the Partition in 1947 and secondly when the anti-Sikh riots took place, displacing them for the second time in just 37 years.

According to Mr Gurdev Singh, chairman of the Danga Peerat Welfare Society, Punjab, the victims were more disturbed by the attitude of the government towards their sorry state. He added that the government had given them these houses in 1984 and had inserted an advertisement in various newspapers inviting applications from the riot victims to rehabilitate them. He claimed that all formalities were completed at that time and the latest plan of PUDA had come as a surprise for them. 



Residents chill in pools as temp rises
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, April 20
As the city’s temperature has recorded an increase in recent days, residents here have started frequenting various swimming pools to get respite from the scorching heat. Most pools are witnessing a huge rush where persons of all age groups pour in to get the cool feeling.

Mr Sunil Jain, general secretary, Sutlej Club, said this season the club management had made arrangements even to accommodate very small children. A separate swimming pool of less depth had been made for the kids where they could easily float without any risk. He said: “The pool has already been started and is always full to its capacity. Old, young as well as children come and enjoy the splash of water with music. To make the atmosphere lively, we play music during the swimming hours. There is a separate time for kids, women and families”.

Mr Jain said the authorities changed the water of the pool daily and only members and their dependents could avail themselves the facilities of the pool.

Mr Ajay Malik, Manager, health club, Park Plaza, said this season the pool’s membership had increased. “We have our own filtration plant and the water is always clean. Children, middle-aged and elderly people come and enjoy the water sport. There are permanent as well as temporary members”. Mr Yuvraj Dada, general secretary, Lodhi Club, said the club had an all-weather pool.

“Senior members come in the morning to get a fresh feeling and youngsters and children swim in the evenings. The temperature of the water is maintained at 27 to 28 degrees. The water is regularly changed to avoid any kind of skin infection”, said Mr Dada.

Meanwhile, the Commissioner Municipal Corporation has said the corporation’s swimming pool at Rakh Bagh will be open to the members from April 21. “Swimming is the best recreation of life to be healthy and fit. The membership of the pool is limited so the willing persons must enroll themselves as early as possible to avoid disappointment”, he added.



‘Need to reorient ex-servicemen’
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 20
“The Armymen not only know how to handle guns or work in discipline, but they can also perform a whole range of works and can be of great use to the industrial sector” and “Armymen have to reorient themselves according to the needs of different jobs in the civil atmosphere”. These views were expressed by Maj-Gen R.S. Jamwal, Chief of Staff Vajra Corps, and Mr S.P. Oswal, Managing Director, Vardhman Group of Industries, respectively, at a defence-industry interaction programme.

The programme, Human resource partnership between defence and industries, was organised at the PAU auditorium here today to explore the maximum placement opportunities for the ex-servicemen in the corporate sector.

Speakers from defence services and industries shared their views. It came to light that even though the Army was running over 300 courses for settlement of defence personnel after retirement, the industry still had some reservations. On of them was the training of discipline, sometimes rigid, which caused problems of adjustment in the industrial sector.

It was felt that there was a need for reorientation programmes for the ex-servicemen to adjust to the demands of working in a civilian atmosphere.

Mr Oswal, who presided over the seminar, stressed the need for organising some orientation courses jointly by the corporate sector and the Army authorities for the ex-servicemen. He said the work culture in the corporate sector and in the Army was quite different, so the ex-servicemen must be adept in the new scheme of things. He said the development of human resources was of utmost importance in the present age of competitiveness. General Jamwal and other speakers from the defence highlighted the professional ethos and culture prevalent in the forces and urged the captains of industry to tap this vast pool of skilled manpower.

Brig Sunil Dhawan, Station Commander, Ludhiana Military Station, who was the organiser of the seminar, thanked the business community, the district administration and PAU for making the seminar a success.

Among others who spoke at the seminar were Mr Anurag Aggarwal, Deputy Commissioner, Mr S.K. Rai, Managing Director, Hero Cycles, and Brig J.S. Jaswal. Nearly 500 representatives from business houses and ex-servicemen attended the seminar.



Vehicular pollution worries NGO
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 20
A local NGO, Resurgence India, has submitted a representation against the vehicular pollution menace in the city to the Governor. The representation was signed by nearly 1,000 residents of Ludhiana.

The representation says that the residents are forced to breathe poisonous gases much in excess of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, leading to a manifold increase in respiratory disorders, cardiovascular diseases, bronchial asthma, skin, eye, ear, nose and throat problems. It highlights that the pollution has assumed alarming dimensions due to rampant usage of adulterated fuel by auto-rickshaws; over-burdening of auto-rickshaw engines by carrying eight to 10 passengers; non-enforcement of pollution checks; non-availability of Mass Rapid Transport System; bottlenecks in the flow of traffic due to rampant encroachments; presence of electric/ telephone poles and trees in the middle of roads; frequent processions and public functions on roads; and lack of efforts to promote emission-reduction technologies like battery-operated vehicles and electronic catalytic converters.

According to Mr Hitender Jain, general secretary of the NGO, the association has submitted various representations in this regard to the district administration and the state government, but to no avail. Mr Jain thanked the residents for responding to its signature campaign and reaffirmed its commitment to bring the issue of vehicular pollution to its logical conclusion.



DCC delegation meets Sonia
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 20
A delegation of the District Congress Committee (DCC) led by its president, Mr K.K. Bawa, met the Congress chief, Ms Sonia Gandhi, in New Delhi and apprised her of the party and the government functioning in the state. The PPCC chief, Mr H.S. Hanspal, was also present at the meeting.

Mr Bawa told mediapersons on his return from Delhi that Ms Sonia Gandhi was briefed on the ‘outstanding performance’ of the government. Mr Bawa claimed that the party chief also lauded the anti-corruption drive of the government and expressed confidence that the government would provide clean and transparent administration to the people. She emphasised the need for focussing on the development projects.



Govt’s attitude towards Rly pensioners decried
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, April 20
The annual general meeting (AGM) of the Northern Railway Pensioners and Welfare Association, Ludhiana, was held at the Railway Institute here today. The meeting was presided over by Mr Sher Singh president.

Mr Sher Singh, in his address deplored the attitude of the Central Government towards senior citizens. He rejected several recommendations of the Vth Pay Commission.

He also lamented hurdles in the reimbursement cases. The Railways inspite of repeated requests had not provided any office accommodation to registered associations while the Punjab Government had constructed a pensioners’ bhavan at the Mini-Secretariat at Ludhiana at a cost of Rs 20 lakh. He was also critical of the increase in the emoluments of the MLAs and ministers which would burden public with taxes.

He appealed to governments concerned to allow all concessions to senior citizens on the pattern of western countries. He was critical of the reduction in telephone calls and denial of relief to senior citizens in telephone rents. He demanded a minimum of Rs 1000 as old-age pension to the widows and senior citizens. Mr K.L. Chitkara general secretary read out the association's report for 2002-2003. Mr R.L. Sachdeva, treasurer, present the finance report for the year 2002-2003.



Easter celebrated with fervour
Our Correspondent

Rev Ram Lal conducts Easter Service at Calvary Church
Rev Ram Lal conducts Easter Service at Calvary Church in Ludhiana on Sunday. — Photo IV

Ludhiana, April 20
Easter was celebrated with joy and religious fervour by members of the Calvary Church CN Ludhiana.
The celebrations began with Sunrise Service at 5.30 pm followed by breakfast. The main worship service was held at 11am. The priest-in-charge Rev. Ram Lal led the service. He was assisted by Rev. A. Rogers, DN Alwin Wilson, DN Alferd G. Singh, and DN JA Rahi and Amrian Gill.

Prominent among the guests were Dr Harbans Lal, Forest Minister, Mr Gurcharan Singh Ghalib, MP, Mr Surinder Dawar, MLA, and Mr Sanjay Talwar, Municipal Councillor.

Speaking on the occasion Mr Harbans Lal congratulated Christians and praised them for their selfless service to humanity. He said the CNI was one of the oldest churches in Northern India.

He donated Rs 2 lakh for the construction of Calvary church. Mr Dawar and Mr Sanjeev Talwar also extended their greetings to Christians.



Five injured in road mishap
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 20
Five persons were injured in a road accident, involving a car, a bus and a combine harvester, near Gurdwara Manji Sahib Kotan, 14 km from Khanna, today morning. The passengers of the bus and the persons travelling by the car, however, had a miraculous escape even though the vehicles were damaged in the accident.

The injured were taken to a hospital. Two of them were discharged in the afternoon, while other three, Kuldeep Singh, Mehar Singh and Parmjit Singh, were still in the hospital. All of these were travelling by the combine harvester and had fallen down due to the impact of the accident.

According to information, the car (PB-11-D-4814) in which a family from Amloh was travelling to Ludhiana suddenly came to a halt due to some problem. The driver of the combine harvester applied brakes immediately, but could not save the vehicle from hitting the car. The car fell into a ditch, but the passengers escaped with minor bruises.

The driver of the combine harvester lost control over the vehicle and it overturned. The driver of the bus, which was following the combine, turned it to the right to avoid hitting the combine. It did not hit the combine, but rammed into the central verge. No case has been registered as the parties had come to a compromise. 



35 bottles of liquor seized
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 20
The Excise Department has seized 35 bottles of liquor from Harmail Singh, a resident of Khatran village, near Samrala, and registered a case under Sections 61, 1 and 14 of the Punjab Excise Act against him.

The accused has been arrested. Mr G.S. Bahia, Excise and Taxation Officer, said the liquor was brought from outside Ludhiana district and was meant for illegal selling in the area. He said the accused had been arrested many times earlier also.

Mr T.L. Jindal, AETC (III), said the new amendment had been made in the Act to punish the smugglers, who could be punished with a penalty ranging between Rs 10,000 and Rs 1 lakh. Under the Act, the vehicle used for smuggling could also be impounded.

One arrested: One pistol and two cartridges were seized from the possession of Raju Verma, a resident of Uttar Pradesh, on Friday.

According to police sources, Raju admitted that he had murdered a couple of Ramgarh village, 8 km from Machhiwara village, in the year 2000. He had been employed as a servant by the couple. After the murder he took away cash and jewellery items.

Raju was arrested by the Sahnewal police and a case under the Arms Act has been registered against him.

Case registered: Fifteen bottles of illicit liquor have been seized from the possession of Paramjit Singh Pamma of ward No. 7 of Sahnewal. A case under the Excise Act has been registered on Saturday.

Four booked: The Sahnewal police has registered a case against Kabir Hussain, Sakleev, Davinder Singh and Parminder Singh on charge of fighting on the main road of the town, thus creating hindrance in the smooth flow of the traffic on Saturday night.


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